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Captain Kwok's Balance Mod

I often get questions regarding the content or mechanics of the Balance Mod, so I have put together some FAQs with answers to provide some insight into the mod. The FAQ is a work in progress and is updated periodically.

Last updated 01 June 2024 / Balance Mod v125+

Captain Kwok IconBalance Mod FAQs - General Gameplay

Q: What's the purpose of the Balance Mod?

The original intent behind making the Balance Mod was to create the standard data set for SE:V. Unfortunately the mod wasn't ready when the game was released and instead it was provided as an alternative to SE:V's standard files, which many players felt were under developed and not balanced very well. Since then, the Balance Mod has continually been updated and tweaked to achieve a relatively balanced data set with a more developed AI, providing players with an enjoyable gaming experience while maintaining the feel of the standard game.


Q: Why are you still updating this mod for a game that is almost 20 years old? New!

Space Empires V and Space Empires in general have a certain appeal in their design, mechanics and general open-ended gameplay that haven't quite been replicated in other 4X space games. For that reason I continue to enjoy the game and the mod serves a purpose of continuing to improve the game, adding new elements and better AI play.


Q: Does the Balance Mod use Fyron's Quadrant Mod 5 (FQM5)? Updated!

The Balance Mod originally incorporated the majority of FQM5's changes. But in the many years since the mod first started, the Balance Mod has developed it's own style for star systems, slowly moving towards a more realistic depiction of actual space. You'll notice stars for example feature realistic colour temperatures for their spectral types and are more appropriately sized relative to each other. Or that planetary systems are commonly found around low mass stars. There's a lot more variety in 'storms' which represent various phenomenon from solar flares to aggregating planetesimals. Black holes have been updated visually to match their appearance as captured by the Event Horizon Telescope. Asteroids now come in 3 types, C, M and S types with different abilities.


Q: Why are there fewer tech levels in the Balance Mod? Updated!

There are a number of reasons why the Balance Mod reduced the overall number of tech levels. The reasons included balancing requirements, gameplay benefits, increasing play-style variety and AI development.

Keeping facilities and components in scale with each other over 100 tech levels is difficult. For example, a Depleted Uranium Cannon (DUC) in the standard game does 20 damage at level 1 and 515 damage at level 100 - a 25x increase. However, other game elements like component/facility/population structure does not follow a similar increase and the effect of the DUC becomes unbalanced to other game elements. The general rule of thumb when I revised the tech tree for the Balance Mod was for an item to approximately double in its output/ability from their lowest to highest tech level - or at least stay in step with a counter item. This helps keeps various game elements in equilibrium with each other. Overall there's about 3 'technology' ages, so the overall progression from the starting technologies to the most advanced is about a 5-6x improvement in output.

In the standard data files, most tech areas have very low base costs and relatively small increases per level. Most of the time, a single level gain in a tech area is not a worthwhile upgrade - so most players will wait a few levels before deciding to upgrade a design or facility. In the Balance mod, tech level increases have higher relatively higher costs and research time commitments. Each increase level has about a 10% return in output which can be more useful. On average though, most players will still wait for a few different upgrades in useful areas before committing to updating vehicle designs etc.

One complaint with the standard data files was a lack of variety in weapon usage. Each weapon had a lot of tech levels and finished with about the same damage value, so once players had committed to a weapon branch it didn't make much sense to switch back to another weapon since you had already committed millions of research points. The Balance Mod rearranges the weapons tech tree into layers, progressing from lower tech weapons to higher tech weapons. This allows players to diversify their weapon usage throughout the game and opens up more playstyles.

For AI players, having many tech levels at a low cost causes a number of issues. Unlike their human counterparts, the AI doesn't have much analytical capability (or lacks access to important details) and cannot decide when to make a worthwhile upgrade to their designs. In short, they end up making many new designs and have to restrict their retrofitting. It also makes it more difficult to develop a dynamic AI research pathway.

Lastly, even though there are fewer overall levels in the mod, there is still plenty of research to be done. When all factors are considered, such as research output versus technology costs, the "research time" length of the Balance Mod tech tree is very close to that of the standard game. Unfortunately, the nature of the share technology treaty element, isn't as supportive and can make the technology tree feel shorter. Try playing the latest versions (V1.22+) that allow you to disable technology sharing in treaties for AI players, which really diverses the quadrant.


Q: What are some of the other technology tree changes?

Discounting changes to the number of tech area levels, the requirements and shape of the Balance Mod tech tree is similar to the standard game. A few notable changes include the addition of the Vehicle Systems tech area, which is a requirement for improvements to Life Support and Crew Quarters; starting racial trait levels; the earlier availability of Fighters, Space Yard and Remote Mining components; and the branching points for engines and vehicle hulls.

Compare the Balance Mod's tech tree with the Standard Game's tech tree:
Current Balance Mod v125 Tech Chart
Standard Game Tech Chart


Q: How does the propulsion system work?

The Balance Mod requires larger ships to use more engines than smaller ships to travel the same speed. This is often referred to as QNP (Quasi-Newtonian Propulsion) in the Space Empires modding community. Essentially, each engine in the mod adds a fixed number of movement points. The ship's resulting in-game movement is the total number of movement points divided by the vehicle's movement point requirement to generate 1 movement. For example, if your Frigate has 4 level 1 Ion Engines supplying 60 movement points each and your Frigate requires 40 movement points to make 1 speed, it will have a maximum speed of 240/40 = 6. Any decimal portion is truncated. Lastly, movement bonuses from racial traits or solar sails are added on to this value to generate a ship's maximum speed. Some bonuses of this system are that you can mix and match engine types and it helps to equalize the value of small and large ships. There are limits to the number of engines that can be added to a hull, this is done for gameplay purposes for both the AI and for game performance.

For combat, a ship's speed with be its movement point value, but in km/s. For example, if a Frigate has a maximum speed of 6, it will move at 6 km/s in combat. A few exceptions include Fighters and non-combat hulls. Fighters travel 1.5x faster in combat than through a star system. For example, a Fighter with a maximum speed of 10 will travel at 15 km/s in combat. Freighters and Colony Ships in combat will move slower than their system speed, typically 75% their movement amount.


Q: What has changed with unit launching? New!

Unit launching changed in the v125+ series. Cargo storage has been removed from unit launching components, so for a carrier you'll need to have Fighter Launchers to launch fighters but also Cargo Bays to store fighters. This dynamic systems allows you to design your ship to launch faster with fewer fighters (more launchers, fewer cargo bays) or launch slower with more fighters (fewer launchers and more cargo bays). The updates to unit sizes allow for better fitment as well.


Q: What are the Components that can be counted towards Cargo Requirements?

In the mod, many additional components can be counted towards cargo requirements on freighters. The purpose of this change was to encourage the use of freighter hulls. Valid cargo components in the mod are: Rock/Ice/Gas Colony Modules, Supply Storage, Ordnance Storage, Ordnance Vat, Space Yard, Repair Bay, Cargo Bay, Mine Layer, Mine Sweeper and Remote Mining components.


Q: How does the Intelligence System work?

In the standard game, a project could only be successful if the selected intel project's cost was greater than the defending player's intel defense points - an all or nothing approach. All unused points under the standard system would accumulate. A player could easily build up a impenetrable wall of defense, nullifying the intelligence aspect of the game. Vice versa, players with unmatchable amounts of intel points could also be unstoppable in their offensive intelligence attacks.

In contrast, the Balance Mod uses a "leaky" intel system. A success percentage is calculated based on the number of attack points a player has, the project cost, and the number of defense points the target player has. The result is that even a weaker player may enjoy some intel success against a stronger player and makes it more difficult to overwhelm an opponent with intel alone. Defensive intel points do not accumulate between turns as it is assumed they are actively being used to deter intel operations by other players. The system is also biased against more costly high-impact projects, making them generally less likely to occur.

The success percentage of an intel project is determined as follows:
Success % = Attack Points / (Attack Points + (Defense Points * 5) + Project Cost) * 100

Project costs are listed on the Balance Mod tech chart.


Q: How has population happiness changed in the mod? New!

Happiness is modified in two ways by the Balance Mod. First, is the internal game engine that uses the first happiness type in Happiness.txt to adjust population happiness from turn to turn based on those settings. Things like enemy ships, combat results and happiness modifiers like Urban Pacification Centers are accounted for in this calculation.

The mod also runs an event script each turn at the planet level, which makes further modifications taking into account your empire's government type, diplomatic status and local planetary conditions. The government type is the strongest factor, it determines both the base happiness trend (for example, Democracy trends towards indifferent) and the population's war tolerance level. Both factors are described in the government type ability descriptions. If the planetary happiness is less than the government type base happiness, the happiness trends upward and downward if the current planetary happiness is higher. The war tolerance modifier is calculated as a proportion of the current number of turns in all wars modified by the government modifier and capped to a max value per turn. So most longstanding wars for most government types will eventually start causing a downward trend across an empire.

The overall mechanic works like this: Current Happiness + Game Engine Modifier + Government Type Modifier + War Modifier + Planet Conditions Modifier. Most of the time the game engine modifier is very positive and the collective BM happiness script settings are moderately negative. With some modest effort, you can maintain populations in the happy range. It is much harder to be an 'open' government type though fighting a lot of wars. Note populations that are emotionless are not impacted by these script mechanics.

The mod's happiness script also makes better use of the loyalty mechanic. Population loyalty will decrease with continously unhappy populations. If the population happiness remains too low for too long, there's a chance the planet will rebel.

Although this mechanic runs in the events script at the end of each turn, it is not part of the events that can be disabled so the Mod's happiness scheme is always on. This is intentional as it is a key factor in making elements like an empire's government type, diplomacy and population loyalty have significance to game play.


Q: What is pollution and why was it added? New!

Pollution was added originally to the mod as an 'Extra' - an alternate events script which based on the facilities present could decrease the planet's conditions. In the game, there's not many things that actually impact a planet's conditions so it was trivally easy to maximize all your planet's conditions and maximize happiness bonuses. Since v122, pollution has been standard in the mod. It works simply by adding up pollution points from 'industrial' facilties (as described in the facility's ability description) present on the planet. The total points are modified based on planet size and then compared to a list of target planetary conditions. If there is a lot of pollution, then the target conditions will be low and over time, the planet's current conditions will be decreased to the target level at a rate proportional to the difference. You can combat pollution with Climate Control Facilities or the Environmental achievement. Pollution log messages are generated anytime a planet passes through a conditions description change, like good to unpleasant. Note planetary conditions do carry penalties for population happiness. Recent changes made to pollution have reduced the effect for early games and your original homeworld (in single homeworld games) will always see just half the effect.

Pollution can be turned off in the data file ModEventSettings.txt - setting both values to FALSE.


Q: What are random research events? New!

The random research events add-on was added to mod in v122 by default. It's a simple events script that will randomly add (breakthrough!) or subtract points (setback!) to an area of active research. This provides a small variable factor to research times. On average, the breakthroughs and setbacks even out but if you've picked the lucky trait you'll get a few more breakthroughs!

Research events can be turned off in the data file ModEventSettings.txt - setting both values to FALSE.


Captain Kwok IconBalance Mod FAQs - AI

Q: What Are Some Recommended Settings for Solo Player Games? Updated!

I usually recommend the following settings for solo games:

  • Simultaneous movement( - Tactical combat/sequential movement can be considered unfair to AI players
  • Auto-generated AI opponents - Allows them to use their race-specific AI instead of default ones
  • High Computer Difficulty**
  • Low Computer Bonus - Helps provide the AI with a slight numerical advantage
  • At least 2,000 Racial Points - Allows AIs to pick specific racial traits that they are setup to use
  • 50,000 Starting Tech Points - Allows AIs to grab a few of their preferred technologies early on, improving their diversity
  • Quadrant that has about 10+ systems per player - Helps improve turn times and provides space for the AIs to spread out and establish themselves
  • Avoid Neutral Empires - If you're prone to manipulating the AI to gain advantages, you'll want to avoid the temptation of neutral AI empires
  • Consider using some of the settings in ModAITreatySettings.txt to increase the diversity in your AI opponents and eliminating crutches like migration between empires or sharing technology
  • Consider restricting colonization to planets your homeworld or atmosphere type - fewer planets for you plus an AI bonus can make for a more challenging game

To make things a bit more challenging, you can always refuse your starting tech or racial trait points as a way to give the AI a bit of boost, particularly if you like to micromanage more.

* Note AI players always play like the game is in simultaneous mode - this is because AI scripts are run at the beginning of their turn in sequential games and they only see information as it stands at the start of a turn - they can't adjust to anything that happens in the turn.

** Difficulty levels in the current version of the mod only vaguely represent an AI player's intuition. It would better to say the AI bonus better represents a difficulty setting. Note that stock has no implementation of difficulty.


Q: What are the AI's ministers doing anyway?

Learn more about the Balance Mod's AI ministers do here:
Balance Mod Minister FAQs


Q: What are the AI's states?

The AI can be in 1 of 5 states listed below with a brief description:

  • Explore and Expand - No other empires known
  • Infrastructure - The default state when all other states are false
  • Defense - Enemies are in the AI's territory or AI empire is relatively weak
  • Attack - Enemy targets are vulnerable to attack or AI empire is relatively strong
  • Not Connected - The AI is isolated from the rest of the map (For example, a "Warp Points Not Connected" type game)

The AI's state will influence a number of factors including diplomacy, research, design type distribution and construction items. The AI's state is determined each turn.


Q: How does the AI make diplomatic decisions? Updated!

AI empires in the Balance Mod respond to other players politically based on five factors - anger level, fear level, target priority, friendship, and AI personality category.

Positive or negative anger amounts are generated by game events, such as combat or sabotage, proximity/amount of enemy ships/colonies, and the target empire's current diplomatic status with the AI player and other known empires. There's also a few modifiers involved for factors like similar government/society types, human or AI player, mega evil status, and so on. Anger amounts generated by events decay over time, where anger amounts related to political status increase/decrease depending on the length of time in the current political state. The lowest anger against is considered the AI's primary friend. The anger level is used as a base value for determining whether or not to accept various treaty elements, proposing or breaking treaties, etc.

Fear is derived from the AI's player's score against another empire with a small modifier for the AI's personality category. A positive fear value is true fear, while a negative value represents confidence. Fear is often used as a direct modifier to base anger values that determine a variety of diplomatic actions, but used mostly in treaty related diplomacy.

Target priority is a point system where points are added or subtracted based on factors like proximity, similarity, current treaty status, treaty status with other players, human or AI player, and fear level. The score is then converted into a priority level of low, medium, or high. Target priority is often used as a modifier in diplomatic situations like proposing a treaty or declaring war. The more burdened an AI is terms of enemies and wars, the more likely they'll try to make amends with low priority players and avoid starting new fights with all but the highest priority players. The player with the highest target priority score is considered the AI's primary enemy.

Friendship is the newest factor in the Balance Mod. It's simply a score generated by the treaty elements between two players, where each element has a positive or negative friendship value attached to it. The friendship score is currently used to differenriate between players that have treaties with an AI player. Previously, various positive diplomacy modifiers were based only on the existence of a treaty where now they only apply if the player is a true friend, that is, the treaty with them is actually beneficial.

The AI's personality category can be peaceful, neutral, aggressive, or xenophobic. This is the weakest factor since most of the AI's individual settings for diplomatic decisions already have a bias built in. Typically the AI's category is used as a minor modifier in a few areas.


Q: How does the AI make or accept treaties? Updated!

When receiving a treaty proposal, the AI looks at each treaty element. Every treaty element has a base anger level to accept and a concession value. If all elements are acceptable to the AI Empire, it will accept the treaty. If a few elements exceed the AI's anger level towards the proposing player, it might offer a counter treaty with revised elements. For some elements, even though they met the AI's basic requirements, they might be considered useless or not applicable and they will be removed and a counter-proposal made. A weaker AI will accept more concessions than a stronger AI due to its fear value. When an AI offers a treaty, it uses it's anger level to determine what type of treaty to offer, such as a Trade agreement or a Non-Aggression pact. Each treaty type has certain elements that are always added, while others get choosen if certain conditions are met. The specific element values added to the proposal will depend on the AI's anger and fear levels. A stronger AI will seek more concessions, while a weaker AI might offer some concessions.

In some instances when an AI player is faced with too many wars or enemies, it will make an effort to establish non-aggression treaties with current enemy empires that are of lower priority. Often these are enemy empires that are distant or at the very least, a reduced threat compared to the AI's primary enemy.

As of v1.21, you can now edit the AI's ability to accept or propose a number of treaty elements. The data file ModAITreatySettings.txt contains a description of what each setting does. You can use this file for example to eliminate tech sharing in treaties preserving more diversity in AI empire's tactics and designs - a great option for AI team or high bonus games where normally AI tech sharing makes the games less interesting and human players extremely overmatched technologically. Also if you hate how AI players intermingle with their allies, try disabling the AI's options to colonize each other's systems. In that case, you get nice clear regions of space under a single player's control.


Q: How does the AI handle surrendering?

A strong AI empire will considering demanding for a weaker empire to surrender when they're at war with them and it considers itself to much more powerful. When an AI empire is asked to surrender, it first checks to see if its basic surrender conditions are met. This is a threshold fear level of the stronger player. Then there's a bunch of other factors the AI will consider - is it at peace with the requester? Is it being asked too frequently to surrender? Does the AI's personality suggest it should try and fight to the bitter end? Does it want to spite the powerful empire and surrender to one of the stronger player's rivals or an existing friend? If the answers to those questions are no, then it's likely the AI empire will give up.


Q: How does the AI make designs? Updated!

Each of the SE:V's standard AI players have a personalized setup of design types that is aligned with their basic empire design philosophy. For example, the Drushocka utilize a combination of small seeker ships with more fighters and carriers, while the EEE prefer moderately sized ships with direct fire weapons.

Each empire also has a list of preferred weapons they typically use. It's not a static list, but takes some consideration of role, vehicle size, enemy designs, and technology available. For example, the Amonkrie might use Phased-Polaron Beams on their defense ships, but only if known enemy designs aren't using phased shields.

Outside of weapons, additional components are added based on ship size and purpose, with adjustments made for features of known enemy designs. For example, if the Jraenar note their enemy the Phong are using skip armor weapons, then they'll be more likely to use more shields versus armor.

AI players check their overall empire and combat performance every 10 turns. AI empires experience success in combat will tend to lean more heavily with their current design strategy. AI's performing poorly for several performance checks, will make a change in design and ship building strategy for example. Suppose an AI player is losing many combats and has a strategy of using large ships and direct fire weapons but facing a faster enemy. It might shift it's strategy to faster smaller ships using seeker weapons.


Q: How does the AI decide to build which designs?

For most design types an AI empire might make, there's a desired amount of that design that is wanted per 500 facilities in the AI's empire, which is proportionally adjusted as required based on the empire's size. The base wanted amounts are aligned with the AI's design strategy philosophy. For some design types, such as Colonizers, the wanted amounts are determined by other factors.

There are plenty of modifiers that will modify the wanted numbers which include considerations for the AI's current state, economic performance, and what types of enemy vehicles/technology they might be encountering. For example, an AI encountering enemy ships that are generally faster than their ships might increase demand for smaller combat ships or fighters, while dropping demand for larger ships.

To determine demand for a design to construct, the AI has specific demand values attached to each design type. These values are multiplied by net number required (amount wanted - amount built plus queued) to generate a total demand value. When it comes to the construction phase in an AI's script, they sort the demand list from highest to lowest demand. While ships are typically constructed at any available space yard, unit constructions are cross-referenced with lists of colonies that need those types of units.


Q: How does the AI decide to build which facilities?

When the AI constructs facilities, the most important element in selecting the facility is the colony type. Each colony type has an associated list of facilities that are suitable for its type, which is typically followed after any prerequisite facilities are added such as a space port. In some instances, a space yard or resupply depot might be added first, particularly if the planet is breathable to the population that occupies it. In addition, specialized facilities at the planet level, such as Planetary Shield or Mineral Scanner, might be added depending on the amount of facility space available, other facilities present, and so on. Facilities operating on a system-wide level usually are added if there is a significant enough presence (or of a particularly facility type) of the AI empire in the system to make use of the facility.

For mixed resource colony types (ie Mining and Farming Colony), the type of specific resource facility added depends on what the AI empire determines it needs more of at the time of construction. Similarly, mixed research and intelligence colonies follow the same general rule. However, the AI is capable of scrapping and replacing those facilities with alternatives if the need arises.


Q: How does the AI research?

The AI divides it's research based on the 4 classifications of technology: Cultural, Theoretical, Applied, and Weapons. From there it typically follows a list of tech areas to add to its research queue. The research points spent in each area will depend on the AI's current state and the amount of research points it has. Every tech area for the AI also carries a priority value that's attached to it. Depending on its circumstances, an AI may rush more critical areas of research. With respect to weapons or racial tech areas, each empire-specific AI has extra instructions to research a particular group of weapons or components.


Check back for new FAQs on a regular basis!

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